"Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?" said Donald Trump during a June 13, 2016 speech.

The speech, which was recorded the morning after the shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, features then presidential candidate Trump slamming his opponent over her support for Muslims and refugees, suggesting that he would be a true friend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

Six months into Trump's presidency, the Human Rights Campaign revisited that promise to see if he is the friend to the LGBTQ he said he would be.


In a new video from HRC, trans kids share what it means to be a friend.

[rebelmouse-image 19528005 dam="1" original_size="500x281" caption="GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube." expand=1]GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

[rebelmouse-image 19528006 dam="1" original_size="500x252" caption="GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube." expand=1]GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

[rebelmouse-image 19528007 dam="1" original_size="500x253" caption="GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube." expand=1]GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

The running theme through the kids' responses is simple: They just want to be accepted, protected, loved, and allowed to live happy lives free from bullying.

That all seems pretty reasonable and really shouldn't be so much to ask.

By these standards and "with his actions," President Trump is not a friend to the LGBTQ community.

On February 22, Trump's Department of Justice and Department of Education rescinded a May 2016 letter of guidance instructing school districts around the country to protect trans kids from discrimination in schools. It was a major WTF moment for anyone who thought the administration would make good on its pro-LGBT promises; and for those who had their doubts, it was a confirmation of their worst fears.

That 2016 letter was the kind of thing Joe Biden might call a "big effing deal," making it clear that trans students have a right not to be bullied or discriminated against. In other words, it was a sign they had friends in the White House. Now? Not so much.

"From rescinding lifesaving guidance protecting transgender students to appointing anti-transgender officials and judges, Donald Trump has proven time and time again that he is no friend to our community. Quite the opposite," says Sarah McBride, HRC national press secretary.

The good news is that anti-LGBTQ attitudes in the White House aren't enough to undo all of the progress we've made.

Trump's administration has been pretty hostile to LGBTQ people, in general, but that's no reason to give up hope.

McBride dismisses Trump's offer of friendship as yet another one of his administration's "alternative facts," but she points to one victorious bright spot from 2016: North Carolina. The state, which earlier in the year had enacted one of the nation's most oppressively anti-LGBTQ laws, rejected its governor's reelection bid in favor of a challenger who ran on repealing it.

"We saw that when trans voices are heard and our allies stand up, we can still make the politics of discrimination and misinformation no longer effective," she says. "That power to effect transformation change remains."

[rebelmouse-image 19528008 dam="1" original_size="499x271" caption="McBride made history as the first transgender woman to address a major political party's convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and has been a tireless advocate for equality. GIF from PBS Newshour/YouTube." expand=1]McBride made history as the first transgender woman to address a major political party's convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and has been a tireless advocate for equality. GIF from PBS Newshour/YouTube.

Allies are an essential component of the path forward for the rights of trans kids, and there are some specific things we can all do to help out, such as speaking out if we see kids being bullied by teachers, classmates, or even the government. Additionally, we can support organizations like HRC in their fight for full equality and call our elected officials to ask them to reject efforts to discriminate.

"The momentum is on our side," adds McBride. "History is on our side."

Watch the Human Rights Campaign's video here:

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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